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Leadership Part 2 – Has Anything Changed?

Last updated on September 20th, 2023 at 08:43 pm

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m proud to say that I never once sat the Police Promotion Exam, not because I couldn’t, but simply because I didn’t want to. Despite enthusiastic encouragement from Mrs Angry, I decided that promotion was not for me, I would be what is known as a Career Constable, and besides which I had better things to do with my Saturday mornings than sit an exam.

However, if my frail memory serves me well, this is how it worked;

Constables studied, went to Promotion Classes, learnt to recite huge chunks of big books off by heart, and eventually, pitched up on a Saturday morning and sat the PC-PS Promotion exam.  Some time later the results were published, and if you’d studied well enough, and not gone to pieces in the exam room, you passed.  Your name went onto a list and eventually, if you kept your nose clean, you got promoted, and posted somewhere new and exiting.

For promotion to the exalted rank of Inspector the process was pretty much the same, just fewer candidates.  Except that now we have Winsor’s Army of Direct Entry Inspectors and SuperNintendos.

Forgive my flippance and sarcasm, but I really don’t have any problem with the process so far, some idiots passed the exam, some good coppers failed, but at least it was fair.

Where I started to lose the plot was promotion to Chief Inspector and above.  This was (and still is???) done by a Selection Process.  Whilst they might appear to be fair and above board (and I’m certainly not suggesting that is never the case, I’m quite sure most are) it is possible for them to be ‘fixed’.  An aspiring candidate appears before a small selection panel, and eventually at the end of the process, a decision is taken as to whether that candidate is suitable for promotion or not, if the answer is favourable, promotion and a move to pastures green follows.

I’ll have to seek your forgiveness for my vagueness of this process as I’ve never experienced those dizzy heights so have no personal knowledge of the process.

I also need to emphasise that I have no experience of the promotion process outside the Met, it may well be very different, and all can have confidence in it.

Where it begins to get interesting is that, in days of old, a practice crept in whereby idiots and buffoons were promoted in the sure and certain knowledge that they would move on elsewhere. In other words, if you were burdened with a halfwit Superintendent (and I met a few) then they could find themselves getting promoted to Chief Halfwit and would become another Division’s problem.

Then we have the alleged Nepotism, Cronyism and even (allegedly again) Masonic Influence. Jobs For The Boys. One only had to look at the list of senior promotions and transfers in the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t difficult to work out what was happening. As soon as a particular officer got a position in charge of something he/she would surround themselves with Middle Management of their choice. That was how it worked. Equal Opportunities? Don’t make me laugh.

Take it to the extreme and you see folk leave the Metropolis, bound for a new career as Chief, or Deputy Chief Constable somewhere. Oh my, what a surprise, 2 or 3 others have also made the same move.  Then a couple of years later they come back to the Met, to take up the post of Commissioner or Deputy, and guess who comes back to the Met too. Or is it all in my fertile imagination? Maybe it never happened.

After I retired I seem to have lost track of things like that. I was vaguely aware that it seemed like a few names had left, gone to Merseyside (I think) and come back again, but as for current practices I’m way out of touch now. Do these things still go on?

And now we find ourselves in 2015. Do these things still happen? Is there an OCU out there somewhere where the senior management have been appointed solely on merit, with no regard to Chumocracy, Nepotism or The Square?

Surely the practices of the 70s, 80s and 90s have not left us with ACPO types across the land, who have only got where they are because they were promoted for being a buffoon?  The country deserves better than that, hopefully that practice has ceased, it has no place in modern Policing, nor any other era really, it should not have been tolerated, EVER.

I’m not going to embarrass anybody but I KNOW that there are some very good Bosses out there, there are some true, inspirational Leaders at some ranks. I see the occasional Twitter account where I think to myself “hmm I think I might have liked to work under him/her”, but not many. The truth is, they should ALL be like that.

And then I found this document, commissioned by the somewhat discredited College of Policing and carried out by some University types;

Chief officer misconduct in policing

You can read all 95 pages if you want, but I only needed to get to Page 4 before it got interesting;

Career progression

“Career progression processes were often identified as contributing to misconduct. These processes were seen as highly competitive at senior level, creating both a narrow focus amongst candidates on ‘gaming’ the processes and – in those who succeeded – a sense of exceptional achievement and, thus, entitlement. Several interviewees described how the

Strategic Command Course tended to create close mutually supportive and inward-looking networks. The training was thought to be light on ethical issues and on questions of values. It was also suggested that chief officers tended to select and appoint people ‘in their own image, thus reproducing the ethical climate prevailing among police leaders. Some interviewees regarded high potential (accelerated promotion) schemes as sources of risk, suggesting that these officers gathered breadth of experience but not the depth of experience needed to develop robust ethical standards.”


 Lack of challenge


“Challenging more senior ranks was widely considered to be career-limiting. [No Shit Sherlock] In addition, several interviewees referred to an organisational failure to challenge misconduct at earlier stages of people’s careers, and indeed a preparedness to ignore or tolerate misconduct either when selecting people for chief officer rank or when providing references on candidates. It was also suggested that integrity vetting (which has different levels of intrusiveness) could be inadequate.”


So, it is with much dismay that I must conclude that NO, nothing much has changed.  I am most certainly not suggesting that every single senior officer has gained their position by virtue of Nepotism, not On Credit, far from it, but I’m equally adamant that we could probably all name someone who has.  Remember that Inspector from years ago?  You know, the one that we would follow to Hell and back?  We need, and the country deserves, people like that AT ALL RANKS. At every rank from PC to Commissioner those true, great, natural Leaders of men should be represented.  Anything less than that is just copping out.

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3 thoughts on “Leadership Part 2 – Has Anything Changed?”

  1. Yes, “Copping Out” should be the title of your next book. The top brass clearly cop out from leadership & many below seem ridiculously over-stressed (thanks to the effects of Imelda’s cuts) so cop out as an act of well-advised survival, leaving discouraged & betrayed.

  2. The question is where are these Good Officers?I never came across very many and when I did it was the exception to the rule.There certainly was not anywhere near the amount required.I cannot imagine things have changed.

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